New York State plans to sue the federal government in hopes of reversing the Department of Homeland Security policy blocking New Yorkers from applying for or renewing their memberships in trusted traveler programs, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday.
"We believe this was arbitrary and capricious," Cuomo said at a press event in New York City. "We believe it's illegal. We believe it was politically motivated."
New York Attorney General Letitia James will file the lawsuit, which will argue that the federal agency violated New York's sovereign immunity while denying New York residents equal protection under the law. James will also contend that the federal government is arbitrarily and capriciously denying New Yorkers their rights.
Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced Wednesday that his agency would no longer accept or renew applications from New Yorkers from programs such as NEXUS and Global Entry. Wolf cited the state's Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses and bars federal agencies from accessing state driving records, as the reason for the move.
Cuomo said the Trump administration was trying to extort New York into changing the law – just as Trump tried to extort Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, an act that prompted the Democratic House to impeach the president.
Referring to Trump, Cuomo said: "You can't use the government to come up with an arbitrary policy that hurts hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to make your political point. You can't do that. It's an abuse of power. It is extortion. And it's exactly what you did at Ukraine."
James, in a news release, called the DHS action "political retribution" and said the state had to sue to protect its residents.
"We will not allow New Yorkers to be targeted or bullied by an authoritarian thug," James said.
Trump himself has not said one word about the new DHS policy, instead leaving it in the hands of Wolf and other top Homeland Security officials.
Wolf's office Friday did not respond to a list of detailed questions about the policy, ranging from why New York was being targeted when 13 other states have laws similar to the Green Light law, to whether New Yorkers who recently applied for trusted traveler status will get their money back.
But Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, told reporters Thursday that federal officials were particularly concerned about the provision of the Green Light Law that bars the sharing of drivers information between the state and federal governments.
“Here we have one of the ... targets of 9/11, New York, walking backward, quite intentionally, in the other direction to bar the sharing of law enforcement-relevant information,” Cuccinelli said.
Story topics: Trusted Traveler